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Opinions: Guilty stories from the bargain bin

During my freshman year, I found a treasure among trash in the dirtiest of places.

As I was at the register at Wal-Mart, my eyes glanced over to a 99-cents-and-up jumble of accessories on a table in the women's section.

Darting through the disaster of poly-blend and pleather that is the Wal-Mart women's section, I spot my booty on the table. That's booty as in treasure, kids.

While I'm reluctant to admit publicly that I'm not above diving through the bargain bin of all bargain bins — or that I shop at Wal-Mart — I made a pretty amazing find. It was a dark green khaki military style hat that incredibly fit my oversized head. I glanced in a mirror and noticed the green brought out my blue eyes. It had been marked down to $1.99 from $9.99. I was sold.

But the longer I spent in line, the more I looked around and questioned why I was shopping there — I could afford to spend an extra 50 cents on my Special K cereal.

My eye made its way into my own basket. In it, I had nail polish, foot cream, mascara, Special K, chocolate soy milk and, of course, the hat.

I slyly took out the nail polish, foot cream and mascara and placed it on the side panel of the aisle which housed batteries and Chapstick.

"Foot cream, Christina?" I thought. "Starving children in Africa don't use foot cream."

This was my attempt to protest my being in Wal-Mart. I couldn't muster up the courage to put that hat down, though. I peeked at the label — "Made in China," of course. How many Chinese babies had to work overtime to make this hat that was marked down to practically nothing? And how much money could they possibly be getting paid?

I bought it anyway. I decided that if I bought the hat, I'd have to wear it enough to ensure that the Chinese child who made that hat wasn't working in vain. So I wore it every other day for a few months.

The hat was cheap for me, but at what expense?

The truth is that I feel insanely dirty when I shop at Wal-Mart. It's like cheap, unemotional sex. I got what I needed, but I'm left completely unsatisfied.

We live in a capitalistic society, and I have no problem with that. I have a problem when the majority — from the lowest class to the moderately affluent — all shops at one place to get what they perceive as a bargain. While Wal-Mart is not technically a monopoly by Merriam-Webster standards, it sort of is.

Wal-Marts are popping up all over the Valley. Of all places Gilbert — mini Scottsdale — and its surrounding areas have seen the rise of more Wal-Marts than anywhere else. Just a little less than a decade ago, Gilbert residents were combating the first Wal-Mart being built in their town. Now, residents are welcoming the store in droves.

I'm not against capitalism. Wal-Mart has a good thing going, and if they're succeeding, more power to them. But with that success comes a certain responsibility. Paying employees low wages and making them work under 40 hours so health benefits aren't necessary is just wrong. Comparable companies such as Target are responsible retail empires, and low prices aren't at the exploitation of their own workers though perhaps still at the exploitation of foreign labor.

Before you send your letters, I realize this is a tired argument and it's entirely hypocritical. I think my dirty Wal-Mart secrets just had to be out in the open.

Now I hope you just don't find out about my $4,300 hooker. E-mail me at:

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